A BRIEF HISTORY
Mobile Foodshare first began in 2001 when we recognized a need to efficiently distribute increasingly large amounts of donated produce. The rapid delivery program uses converted beverage trucks to bring perishable food items such as highly nutritious fruits and vegetables to people in low income neighborhoods who need it most. Sites are hosted by a Foodshare partner and operated with help from a dedicated corps of volunteers.
We received an overwhelmingly positive response from site coordinators and the community members being served. The program grew quickly, expanding from one truck to two in 5 short years – one of the trucks even has refrigerated compartments allowing us to provide dietary staples like meat, yogurts, and other dairy items.
With more than sixty sites up and running by 2011, the Mobile Foodshare program appeared to have reached capacity. Always looking to be economical, we recruited the help of a UPS Routing System to coordinate all of the daily routing of our deliveries and pick-ups. This move created the potential for 20 new sites!
Last year, Foodshare distributed more than 3.5 million pounds of primarily produce through 1,367 distributions hosted by 62 Mobile Foodshare sites operating on an every-other week rotation. Overall attendance increased by nearly 18%, with an average of 130 attendees each receiving 21 pounds of assistance per distribution. The high-water mark was reached on Friday, August 24, 2012 when 1,333 attendees were served at six Mobile Foodshare sites visited by our two vehicles – at St. Augustine alone, 428 individuals received assistance!
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
The Mobile Foodshare program provides easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables for both individuals and families in need. While “need” is generally defined as having a gross annual income at or below 235% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), registration is not required for the majority of sites. The occasional exception includes sites which are located in census tracts indicating the majority of residents do not meet this definition of “need.” In these instances, the host organization conducts an annual “Snapshot Screening” to determine eligibility.
THE FUTURE OF MOBILE FOODSHARE
Foodshare has focused on establishing Mobile Foodshare sites in rural
and suburban areas as research indicates that the rate of poverty is
increasing faster and the number of bricks-and-mortar pantries are fewer
there than in urban areas. Foodshare added three new sites in Tolland
County in 2011 (Andover, Coventry, and Somers) and another three last
year (Ellington, Mansfield, and Tolland). The addition of these six
sites served to increase overall Mobile attendance in Tolland County by
65% as compared to 2010. Last year Foodshare also established new sites
in East Windsor, Rocky Hill, South Windsor, Suffield, and West Hartford.
Foodshare has seen a 46% increase in the amount of healthy, nutritious food distributed through the program. Many sites even hand out recipe cards offering ways to prepare product provided through the program. While these efforts are helping to fill the gap for those in need, Foodshare is still focused on collaboration with site hosts to connect attendees with other available programs like SNAP, WIC, and HUSKY. Over the next 3-5 years, we hope to increase the number of sites offering SNAP outreach services. We’re also interested in expanding the program to include sites in towns where Foodshare does not currently have a community partner – Berlin, Bolton, Columbia, Hartland and Union.
Do you know of an organization in an underserved neighborhood, with the resources – space and volunteers – to host a Mobile Foodshare site? Help us grow this successful program by contacting George Lombardo at 860-286-9999.